Project Manager, Application Development, Unis Lumin Inc.

“Bridging the past, present and future,” is the self-proclaimed goal of the Archives of Ontario and all its services.

Through its Microfilm Interloan Service (AOMIS), for example, Archives effectively bridges time. AOMIS makes yesterday’s records – stored on countless reels of microfilm – accessible to folk who may need them today…and tomorrow. The Archives’ backlog [of nearly 1,500 requests] was cleared in two months – and turnaround time for fulfilling a request has decreased dramatically from six weeks to one day!Todd Simpson>Text

Over the years, however, this task became increasingly difficult.

The number of records grew rapidly, as did requests for access, and Archives decided to build yet another vital bridge: this one between its IT systems (through which loan requests are received and processed) and its business operations.

The project wasn’t easy, but the payback was rapid and remarkable.

It included an impressive increase in productivity, time and cost savings, and the elimination of cumbersome manual processes.

At the heart of all these benefits is Archives’ new Library Management System (LMS) designed and developed with consulting, integration and technology tools and expertise from Unis Lumin Inc. in Oakville, Ont.

This system was one of the many projects showcased earlier this month at Unis Lumin’s newly renovated Oakville facility.

Implementing the LMS was a fairly daunting task.

According to a Unis Lumin paper, the project involved loading thousands of reels of microfilm into the new system before it could go live.

To accommodate this need, the Oakville-based company created a catalogue management interface to the application, and made it available to Archives staff through Thinworx – Unis Lumin’s proprietary thin client technology.

So while their own environment was being updated, Archives staff could use the system from a server and database located at Unis Lumin’s data centre.

All this took a lot of effort, but it paid off in spades, according to Todd Simpson, project manager, application development at Unis Lumin.

The new LMS, he said, speeds up and streamlines day-to-day operations at Archives, while serving as a platform for future growth.

The Archives’ internal LMS is now tightly integrated with the Southern Ontario inter-library loan system (through which participating libraries in the region request materials from one another).

In the past these two systems functioned discretely and information from one had to be manually transferred to the other. This, said Simpson, caused plenty of duplication and delay. “Someone from Archives would have to log on to the inter-library Web portal, print out requests, and physically search the aisles for the required reel of film.”

If and when the film was located, he said, the staffer would then need to enter checkout data in the internal Archives system, as well as the inter-library portal…another long-winded process.

All that’s no more than an unpleasant memory with the implementation of the new LMS, Simpson said. “Now, when an item is checked out in one system, it automatically gets checked out in the other.”

According to Simpson, this seamless, real-time information flow has radically improved efficiency. “The Archives’ backlog [of nearly 1,500 requests] was cleared in two months – and turnaround time for fulfilling a request has decreased dramatically from six weeks to one day!”

He said though the number of requests has gone up from 12,000 to around 16,000 a year, Archives is able to handle the extra volume without adding additional resources or staff.

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